2-Week Turnaround at Local Coronavirus Testing Site Renders Results ‘Virtually Worthless’; Here’s Why It’s Happening

By Carol Tannenhauser

When they returned from a July 4th weekend in Cape May, New Jersey, Marilyn and Larry (who preferred their last name not be used) thought it wise to get tested for COVID-19. On July 8th, they went to CityMD, an urgent care center on West 88th Street and Broadway, to get both the coronavirus and antibodies tests. On July 21st, when WSR spoke to them, they were still awaiting results.

“It will be two weeks tomorrow,” Larry said. “At this point, the coronavirus test is virtually worthless.”

The hold up was not on the part of CityMD, according to Leidy Perez, senior patient care representative for the clinic, but rather, the lab they use, Quest Diagnostics. “They are backed up due to a spike in demand for testing and high patient volume,” Perez said.

It’s a problem not just limited to Quest. “As demand for coronavirus testing surges around the nation, laboratories that process samples are…experiencing backlogs that have left anxious patients and their doctors waiting days — sometimes a week or more — for results,” The New York Times reported.

Quest Diagnostics said in a news release that “testing speed is largely a function of demand. We believe these dynamics affect not only Quest Diagnostics but the entire laboratory industry.”

To mitigate the problem, Quest has devised a “patient prioritization plan.” As a result, “the inflow of specimens to our labs has stabilized, at a high level, compared to last week, due to our efforts to modulate orders for lower risk patients,” the company said. “We’re also asking healthcare providers to adhere to our patient prioritization plan, and to limit the number of specimens they forward for patients who are likely to be at lower risk so that we can direct our capacity to patients most in need.”

Marilyn and Larry had no symptoms of COVID-19, Larry said. Their tests would not  have been deemed high priority.

Quest says “our average turnaround time for reporting test results is now over two days for our priority 1 patients, compared to 1 day a week ago. For all other patients, the average turnaround time is seven or more days. While some patients may receive their test result in as quickly as 2-3 days, a small subset of patients may experience wait times of up to two weeks.”

“CityMD recommends that people experiencing symptoms quarantine until their test results come in,” Perez said.

Here is a link to find a testing site near you.

NEWS | 41 comments | permalink
    1. nycityny says:

      Wow! And this is where we are in July in the city that was the Covid epicenter of the world a couple of months ago. Epic failure of national leadership. A “change of tone” just doesn’t cut it.

      • RCP says:

        You mean epic failure in our healthcare system. Utter incompetence from day one.

      • Mel says:

        Every post here blames Trump. I’m no Trump fan to say the least. Can’t stand him and think he is ruining the country. But what on earth does Trump have to do with slow testing IN NEW YORK CITY 4 MONTHS AFTER THE PANDEMIC STARTED? You all have ruined any chance for dialogue, logic, fairness, and truth, just like little bratty children, except you are the adults! Trump is a disaster, to say the very least, and I pray that he loses this September, but your rabid hatred for him has literally shredded this country in tatters. And not a single one of you is thinking about how this all is affecting our children. Hope you are all happy.

        • JL says:

          The Denier in Chief lost a crucial couple of months at the beginning. He doubled down in the southern “red” states with NO masks and pushed for an early “re”opening. His political life depended on him appearing “strong” against the virus for his base. Due to the disastrous non-response to the US outbreak, and lack of a comprehensive national response for testing and PPEs for healthcare workers in the new hot zones. His poll numbers will tank as the death toll spikes again and again.
          Yes we are ALL suffering on some level. He is thinking about his political life while we need a “the buck stops here” type of leader. I couldn’t think of a worst person for a terrible situation.
          The election is in November, btw. His last card before the election might be to escalate a manufactured conflict with PRC.

        • James says:

          I disagree, Mel. Trump has everything to do with testing failures, supply shortages, spreaders not wearing masks and the thousands of deaths. He is criminally negligent. He has used events of the last six months to divide this country even further than he already had since 2017. Can’t you see why people are angry. They’ve lost their jobs, are locked at home (unless they’ve been evicted), and are dying or permanently damaged by a virus that he predicted would miraculously go away. Why, because it served his election fantasies. He’s killing us. That’s why we’re angry, Mel. Doesn’t sound like a little child’s reaction to me.

        • David S says:

          I’d bet a buck or two that there was a chapter on ramping up testing facilities in the pandemic playbook that the Trump Administration first denied the existence of and later ignored.

    2. Jean Luke says:

      Trump doesn’t believe in testing as testing uncovers new cases. There has been no federal mandate or push to do testing and ramp up testing. Thus the country is in the Virus mess its in while other countries are re-opening economies and going back to normal. Test and Trace is impossible in most states when there are 60k to 70k new cases a day. Blame Trump, Pence, Kushner for this disaster.

      • Cyn(thia) Icke says:

        Re: “Blame Trump, Pence, Kushner for this disaster.”

        Absolutely!! Here’s a headline from CNN.com today (7/22/20):
        “1,000 died of Covid-19 in 1 day. Now the US is on track to hit 1 million new cases in 2 weeks”

        And, as of Monday, “Our Fearless Leader” has resumed his “Covid-19-Briefings-and-Reelection-Commercials” to inform us that:
        1. we are doing more testing than any other country; and
        2. the virus will simply disappear”
        Sure, we ARE doing wayyy more testing than, say, Tuvalu (11,192 people) and the virus WILL disappear…when no one is left to infect.

    3. ben says:

      ‘Slow the testing down, please’, he said.

    4. Harry says:

      Time to get rid of Cuomo and deBalsio for their stunning incompetence in this matter.

      • EdNY says:

        Cuomo is not perfect, but whatever standard you’re applying to him regarding the pandemic would require getting rid of almost every other governor in the US.

        • UWSHebrew says:

          “Cuomo is not perfect” — At the time when there was a completely empty hospital ship staffed with doctors and nurses, and a completely empty makeshift hospital in Central Park (not to mention hotels that could have been used), Cuomo CHOSE to send elderly patients with Covid-19 back into nursing homes. Lacking the proper medical care and quarantine, these poor souls died. Cuomo should be facing criminal charges!

      • irish says:

        LOL

        Whilst i’m no fan of either, your comment is hilarious.

    5. LarryK says:

      I’m the Larry referred you in the above article and my thanks for it. Just a correction…I am 77 and on an immunosuppressant medication. How could I not be a priority? I had the Cov19 and antibody tests and, as of this writing, HAVE NOT received results. We were tested on July 8th. TWO WEEKS!! So I’m not sure of the veracity of the explanation given by CITYMD in the article. My wife received her Cov19 results 1/2 hour ago by Messages. Again, we used CITYMD urgent care in the past and have been completely satisfied.

      • Bob says:

        You are low priority because you are asymptomatic, have no known exposure, and reside in an area with a low rate of local transmission. Your pretest probability is extremely low. As far as the article indicates, you also do not need a negative test result to return to work or for any other practical purpose. By my estimation, it is completely appropriate that you would be in the lowest priority group.

    6. Old Stones says:

      Time to call CityMD and especially Quest Diagnostics to account. They can’t manage the flow, and they are providing excuses instead of timely services. It’s a big problem of a private contractor who can’t deliver, and you can’t just dump on Cuomo and/or DiBlasio.

      • Jay says:

        Medical labs just don’t appear overnight. They take months to set up and get people trained.

    7. Robert says:

      Part I
      I preface this by stating I do and have done anti-microbial polymer research for a number of years.
      That said if you feel ill call your doc to see if your symptoms require a test and follow their advice. You should also contact the CITY MD and or testing site that you are coming in and may be sick. The protocols in most places is that they do not want you coming and spending any time in the waiting area, without an appointment.

    8. Robert says:

      Part II
      Pls that these test are only a point in time, you could test neg on Mon and then be espoused and become sick on Thrus The only definite one is the antibody test which shows you have had C19 and now have antibodies to it. Those that have recovered and are cleared by their doc to do so should think about donated blood.

    9. Robert says:

      Part III
      Pls note that if your doc thinks you have symptoms and need to be tested pls do so, but many people are coming on their own to be tested. This “self-checking” has greatly increased the delays in processing the tests. City MD its one of the storefront operations that the city has signed up to do free tests. There are also large numbers of people that are coming in to have a test done almost every week, without checking with a Doc and/or showing any symptoms.

    10. Robert says:

      Part IV
      With medical records being electronic now I can see the cross reference when they come into the ER and/or when we do clinic hours in various city neighborhoods.
      I personally would use my regular doc in private practice. I know they are hard to find but they are cheaper, and I can get in to see them usually within a day or 2. No matter if its flu, sprained ankle, eye care and/or dental. No gatekeeper BS. Most have the diagnostic equipment there in their practice to do the 15 min test.

    11. Robert says:

      Part V
      Sorry I had to break this into parts, but it was over 100 words.
      The important thing is you make this and any medical decision with a doc. Tell them all your symptoms, have you been around someone that appeared to be sick etc.
      Don’t just go by what your coworkers sister saw on Facebook, or what an elected official said you should do when you spoke a town hall etc . Each person is distinct and different when it comes to medical issues.
      Get REAL medical advice from a Doc.

      • MAD says:

        Robert, I think your comments are right on the mark. Thousands of tests and little analysis or tracking are not going to help slow the virus unless those who test positive self-isolate; is this happening? Good point about speaking to one’s private doctor: I got the antibody blood test in his office and received my results that night.

    12. maryjane says:

      Sure that is crazy, but the other anecdote I heard like this was exactly the same – someone went on vacation and then came back and wanted a test. I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for someone in this situation. Maybe don’t engage in risky behavior that warrants testing. Obviously that is what’s driving the increased demand.

    13. artuws says:

      I got PCR(swab) test at CityMD on West 88th on July 7th, and the result came on July 15th.

    14. E Lang says:

      I went to a place called Cure Urgent Care (on the west side of Bway a block south of the 104th St. City MD) two weeks ago. I got my results less than 24 hours later from a lab called BioReference. That sounds good, right? Well, I went to this place with a friend. Neither of us was either symptomatic or had any underlying condition which would have met a “priority” standard. We were tested and left together. She didn’t get her result until a week and a half after me. No explanation.

      • ML says:

        I also went to Cure and my Covid nasal swab test took 2 days. For my kids (who went a few days later), it took 1 day.

    15. Ashley says:

      Antibody testing a waste of time in my opinion. My husband and I both got tested – he has antibodies, I do not. Meaning he’s had coronavirus and I have not? After being together 24/7? Doctor told me one of the tests must be wrong and that they are not reliable.

      • Robert says:

        It is possible that he did have it and not pass it to you. These tests, are any medical tests, not always 100% That is why most positive AIDS and cancer tests are rechecked if they come back positive.
        That said, i hope your doc had you both retested asap to cfm.

        • Dr Grump says:

          It’s not exactly true, we’re seeing patients who had COVID-19 in March, with positive IgG antibodies in May or June, and now they’re negative. I’ve also seen a patient who was sick March and still (yesterday) had very strong IgM and IgG. Side note no one will call her back to donate plasma. It’s not that it’s “unreliable”, it’s that we didn’t have the testing for antibodies for weeks, and were seeing tons of patients with negative levels 60 days later. It doesn’t meant they’re not immune either, we just have no idea yet. Sure, some of the antibody kits that came out were crappy for sure, and the best way is to get a titer level of immunoglobulins. However, getting the COVID swab is the only real way to know if you’re actively infecting other people, and it’s ridiculous that it’s taking 2 weeks.

      • Julie says:

        Not all household members pass the virus. There’s been plenty of documented cases where some people living together get it and some do not. It’s not a 100% guaranteed infection although high.

    16. Adrienne says:

      My husband had this same experience at the same CityMD location. Then I heard that going through the hospital systems is much faster, so when my kids needed negative covid tests to attend a camp, I just took them to their pediatrician’s office (Weill Cornell). Got the results 18 hours later.

    17. Ryan says:

      I live in Harlem (I know, a bit outside the UWS) but I went to my local city-run site on 127 and Frederick Douglass. Arrived at 930, filled out a form and waited on line less than 5 mins. Tested on a Saturday and was called with my results 2 days later. No cost.

    18. Jessica says:

      I was covid and antibody tested on July 8th at city md and only received results on 7/21, when it didn’t even matter anymore.

      Thought this thread was interesting on twitter: https://twitter.com/marklevinenyc/status/1283748533108117510?s=21

    19. T.L says:

      I tested on the 12th there but I still have not heard back, 12 days later. I am young and otherwise healthy; however, I have Covid symptoms – have obviously been quarantining since. If I am positive, we have no idea how we got it. Have been isolating and religiously washing hands; only go out to walk our dog. Frustrating though to have to wait so long. Too bad the administration wasn’t better prepared…

    20. Julie says:

      Some people in the comments are so misinformed. The backup is due to national labs being at capacity due to all the other states having thousands of cases. This has nothing to do with Cuomo or DeBlasio but with having no national strategy.

      They are plenty of testing sites that use NYS labs which have turnaround time of 3-4 days.

    21. Sydney says:

      According to Gov. Cuomo, when hundreds of prisoners over 55 were tested, only 77 tested positive and NONE of them had any symptoms. But they did have the ability to spread the virus.

    22. LJ says:

      Go to any city hospital (NOT Mt Sinai). They even test on Sundays.Got my results online in 3 hrs. I had Quest test me in Mat and it took almost 3 weeks for my results!

      • seenitall says:

        A nice thought, but if you’re physically compromised (heart/cancer patient), a public hospital the especially in the boroughs would be the worst place to go. Crowded, disease-ridden and overworked staff — no thanks.